As a missionary it is hard to know how much to put the needs of our ministry out there. How many needs to communicate and how many posts about our...
I feel like I should have an awesome story to share or something inspirational to say, but I'm just tired y'all 😂. Parenting 40 children is exhausting, but such a blessing....
Today we found what we consider to be an extreme case. 6 kids, the 2 youngest were left at home by themselves and when the other kids returned home, we discovered that they had not eaten all day...
By Jeff & Steph
Jeff and I really had no idea what to expect when the call to missions came. We basically only knew the basics...we were called to move to Kenya and open a children's home. Jeff had been on 1 mission trip and I had been on exactly zero. He and I had both served in the church for several years, but had never really been involved in foreign missions. Our first few months here were met with challenges...we had land purchase issues and sicknesses that we were dealing with. The only thing on our radar was getting the home built and open. So 8ish months into living our dream we realize that we were called here for so much more than just a children's home. Jeff and I sat down and wrote some things down that we felt like we were also called here to do. We created what we call Mercy Dreams.
We wanted to create something that we could see on a regular basis so we wouldn't lose sight of our calling, dreams and goals. Being here and having so many needs staring you in the face can get overwhelming sometimes and I didn't want that to throw us off. So here is our daily reminder:
Mercy School Reformation -This is going to be a huge task, but we are currently diving in head first. Mercy School was started in 2012 and has grown to over 350 students, which is amazing, but it doesn't have the budget or resources for this many children. The Kenyan school year starts in January and ends in November, so we are hoping to make it through November 2017 with the current number of students and then cut class sizes starting in January 2018. In January we are hoping and praying to have a better budget that would allow for all books and supplies to be provided for each class. Right now the parent are supposed to be providing books, but many cannot even pay minimal school fees so we may only have 5 books for a class of 30 and that makes learning hard. Mercy School is currently doing the best they can with what they have, but there is room for improvement.
Street Boy Ministry - This ministry is about meeting with the boys currently living on the streets of Bungoma, feeding them and sharing the gospel with them. We have a friend (Benedict) who goes with Jeff and Karson that translates from English to Swahili and Kibukusu (the local tribal language). Jeff has also been able to translate some Bible tracts on the computer. We already know many of the boys and the ones we don't know, know us. We are hoping that this ministry will continue to grow and reach many more boys for Him.
Hospital Ministry - In the coming weeks Jeff hopes to be able to start visiting a hospital each week to pray for those wanting prayer. He plans on taking 3 to 4 older kids with him each time. Again Benedict will be tagging along and translating for Jeff. We are also praying that we can provide Swahili New Testaments to give to those who want them.
Parenting Classes - Jeff and I see this as a HUGE need here. This culture is very big on physical discipline, so much so that it doesn't even have to come from the parents. Teachers, shop owners, security guards...everyone here really feels like they have the right to hit a kid who they think is out of line even if they are just being a kid. I'm not a super lenient parent, but many times people here are just too harsh. I'm of the mind set if you know better you can do better. You can't know something that you have never learned. By teaching others (and treating our kiddoes better) a better way to parent we can bring more love into homes.
1 Bible Per Family - A Bible here is a luxury. Often times at church there are may be 5 Bibles in the whole building (50+ attendees). That was shocking to me. In America, Bibles are everywhere...you can get them cheap or ask just about any church and they will get you one. Here in Kenya it isn't that way. Most of the church buildings are made from dirt, don't have electricity and the pastor isn't paid, so they don't have a stack of free Bibles. So our hope is to get a Bible in the hands of each family that belongs to a JFM church (the church group we partner with here).
Child Food Ministry - Since we need to cut down on the number of students that attend Mercy School we are going to start serving lunch from our home. Many of the kids in this area are in need of food, cutting some from the school may mean that they aren't able to attend school at all which may also mean they have to skip meals. Providing free lunch will help cover this gap and also allow us to develop deeper relationships with our community.
Widow Nyumbani (Home) Project - We have briefly mentioned in the past that we hope to have apartments for widows on our property. Having these small rooms separate from the children's home will allow us to help care for widows, but allow them some independence as well. We believe that this will help the kids too, not only are the kids being cared for and loved on, but they are caring for and loving on others. We currently know of a widow who's health is failing her, she's recently been in the hospital and she doesn't have family to help care for her. I wish it were possible for her to move here now, but we just aren't set up for her yet.
SBS leader training - Sharon Bible School is another AFM supported ministry. Currently there are schools here in Kenya and in the Philippines. The purpose of the school is to provide free training to church leaders and members in Bible study methods. Here in Kenya, there are 2 locations where students meet with teachers weekly to go through English and Swahili curriculum provided by AFM's Jim Clark. Jeff hopes to begin meeting with the teachers weekly to distribute and discuss the upcoming week's lesson.
While currently our Mercy Dreams are just some words written in chalk on our unpainted bedroom wall (with the exception of the Street Boy Ministry which has already begun!), we hope that soon it is so much more than that. We hope these dreams become a reality; our reality and a reality to this community we love so dearly. We wanted to share this list with y'all so y'all can pray with us and for each of these dreams. We will never be able to say thank you enough. When we made the decision to move here we were just following God and not thinking about the amount of prayer and finances that it would take to really make this happen. But in true God fashion He has called many people to care for these sweet kiddos...our sweet kiddos. We are hugely blessed to have such a team!
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. James 1:27 NLT
This verse is why we moved to Kenya. We felt like, and we had that feeling confirmed in more than one way, that we were called to care for orphans. Looking back on our lives, Jeff and I are able to see that many of the events and happenings of our lives have led to us being in Kenya. I believe that God has been preparing me for this my whole life. Since moving to Kenya we have faced many challenges, but really we have been blessed. We moved here not knowing or understanding the procedures to open a children's home and here we are with our home open and we still aren't anymore clear on the rules and procedures. So we have just been winging it, trusting that God has us here for this purpose and that He will make a way. Winging it is something that I seem to do well with, or at least survive with.
At this point we have a home that houses 29 people. The girls dorm is complete minus a ceiling, the boys dorm is not yet completed (still needs bathroom and floors completed). Our plan several months ago was to only take in girls because the boys dorm isn't livable yet and we have a lot of room for girls. So we started taking in girls from our area and things were (and still are) going great. But every time we go into town we see these poor boys who just roam the streets all day begging for food and sniffing glue. We decided that we could bring one home, then another, then another.
These boys are such a joy...you can see real transformation with them. When they come here they are dirty, tired and hungry. We immediately provide food, clean clothes, shoes, shower and a hair cut for them. Within a few days you can see a real difference in the way they carry themselves. You can see the harshness in their face fade away. You see them become loving and gentle and you see a sense of security in them.
About 2 months ago we temporarily lost our minds and took in 3 boys within 2 days. We quickly realized that was a mistake because the level of chaos in our home was out of control. We swore that we would never do that again. 3 boys under the age of 10, who had been running the streets of Bungoma was just too much at once. One of the boys that came during that time period decided to leave after being here a couple of weeks. We tried to keep him here because kids shouldn't be allowed to make adult decisions, but he insisted on going. You didn't hear about that because I had too many feelings to process on my end. I don't even believe that we had announced that he was here so I needed to deal with my own feelings of failure before I could try and explain what happened to y'all.
So fast-forward to this past Friday (8/18). We went into town to do our weekly shopping trip plus purchase a bunch of needs that had been provided for by one of our wonderful supporters. We had about 10 stops to make that day so we didn't have time to waste. Right before we were headed to grab a quick lunch I had big brown eyes looking up at me asking me to take him to school. In my head I'm saying "we just don't have room...but we keep telling him soon...but we just don't have room". I ask Jeff if we can take him (Junior) to lunch with us and he agrees. So at lunch we are just beginning to eat our "chips kuku" (french fries and fried chicken with no breading) when we see a familiar face peek in the window and then disappear. The owner of the restaurant goes outside and gets this boy and it is Danny. Danny is the one who was living here, but decided to return to the streets. My honest gut reaction was "Oh no, not this boy!", but he wanted to talk to Jeff. He told Jeff he was sorry, he asked for forgiveness and asked to be able to come back to MCH. Sounds great right? Well it was great except he was told he wouldn't be allowed back if he left our home. We made sure that he fully understood that. We had his teacher talk to him, we had a friend try and convince him to stay and several of our other boys told him not to go, but he did, and now he wants to come back. Jeff is asking me what I think..."uhhh I think he left and knew coming back wasn't an option. I think we don't have room. I think Junior (our lunch date) wants to come and that is completely unfair if we take Danny back and leave Junior. I think you want me to eat all of my food before a decision is made because I'm seriously hangry."
If you know us you probably already know how this is going to end...we take both boys home. How do we say "no"? These are precious children who need love, support, food, clothing and more love. So we are getting ready to leave, Jeff and I with our friend Nickson, Ray with Junior and Danny. But then Wilbur walks up. Wilbur is a little boy who has had my heart for months. We've tried to get him to come to MCH, but he hasn't wanted to. Every time I see him I just want to grab him up, hug him and bring him home...I've watched him decline over the last several months. Well on Friday when we are already in over our heads he wants to come to home. At this point we have broken all of our own rules and really what's one more? So we took Wibur home too.
What we are doing here is hard. I don't mean loving the kids and caring for the kids, that is really easy. But going into town and being asked to help and having to say "no" is hard. When you know you are leaving them to fend for themselves at 8, 9 and 10 years old. When you are saying you won't protect and love them. When you are fully aware of the filth they live in and you choose to leave them there...that is beyond hard. You will never hear me say "We can't save them all." I threw that crazy statement out a long time ago. With God all things are possible, and Jeff and I both fully intend to spend the rest of our lives trying to say "YES!" more and "No" less, in order to save them all.
By Stephanie Bys
Here are some things you may not know about our life in Kenya...some of these I didn't even know before moving here!
1. Most of our area doesn't have power.
I'll be honest and say I didn't really know this before moving. Not only that, I for sure didn't realize ALL the things you have to do without due to no power. Since I grew up in a first world country I didn't realize all the things and ways it would affect life. We have been blessed with having a generator, so we have had power for a few hours a day, and for the most part we are all used to that. Since we don't have power we don't have a TV, washer/dryer, crockpot, stove or any other things like that. We do now have money for power and it is being installed this week. I'm most excited about getting power because it means we can have a refrigerator and have cold things!
2. We have no refrigerator or way to keep food cold.
Before moving to Kenya I didn't even know you could live and run a household without a refrigerator. In Texas we had 2 full size refrigerators and a deep freezer so we ALWAYS had food on hand. I was able to shop every 2 weeks and really stock up. If we ever wanted a snack or had unexpected guests we always had food on hand. Reed has always been a milk junky, but here most milk is sold in packets because there is no way to keep it cold. Room temperature milk has to be gross! Also in Texas, when it was hot outside we were able to grab some ice and sweet tea and cool down (in the air conditioned house) for a bit...not here.
3. When we buy meat it comes straight from a butchery.
Sounds great, right? Fresh meat whenever we want with no chemicals; beef, pork or goat. Well...the meat is hanging in a little wooden box that also doesn't have electricity. No electricity means it is not kept cold. Also you have no real way of knowing just how long that meat has been hanging there. When you place your order they literally hack it up right in front of you with a hatchet, weigh it, wrap it in newspaper, and cram it into small plastic bags. While waiting on the hacking, weighing and packaging process to happen, you may notice that there are flies everywhere...on the scale, on the meat, on the hatchet and on the cutting table. Oh, and the butcher doesn't have running water or gloves!
4. Food storage has become an issue.
To avoid having to go into town every day, we buy our vegetables a week at a time. Feeding 26+ people 3 meals a day takes a lot of food. Right now we are using the boy's closet to store food instead of their clothes. On Friday when we do our shopping, we usually purchase 27 heads of cabbage, 20 lbs of tomatoes, 15 lbs of onions, 6 bulbs of garlic, 10 bunches of cilantro, about 5 lbs of carrots and about 100 lbs of potatoes. It is quite a haul when you add in fruit, items from the supermarket and items from wholesale. Because we didn't know about the way veggies are stored here we don't have the right space, but Lord willing phase 2 will get built and have much room for food storage. Right now we are just winging it and moving stuff around as needed.
5. We don't have running water inside the house.
Again, I didn't realize Kenya had water issues, or what I would perceive as issues. I've always had running water so this was also a shock to me. Here in Kenya everyone has these old yellow cooking oil buckets that they use to carry water. While we are fourtunate to have a deep water well across the street and a tap outside the house, many aren't so fortunate. Many have to walk to the water source and carry water back to their home. Even though we have water on our property there are still many extra steps to get it where it needs to go. When showers need to happen a fire has to be started so water can be heated, then into the yellow bucket it goes. Then it gets carried to the back of the house where the shower stalls are and you mix your water in a bucket to shower. Of course this shower isn't one with water spraying down on you...you simply dump water from your plastic cup over your head. Drinking water comes from the outside tap, into a water jug, which is then carried into the house and placed on a stool. Currently we have 2 of these types of jugs, one in the restrooms for hand washing and one in the living room for drinking. These are usually filled twice a day.
6. All cooking here happens over an open fire.
My experience cooking over an open fire pretty much ends at roasting marshmallows. Yeah...so I came to a third world country with mostly first world skills. I regret that now, but I really just don't get how to cook this way. I'm constantly worried about catching on fire...seriously that is a huge concern of mine. Smoke fills the kitchen and kills my eyes and the kitchen doesn't feel like a kitchen at all because there are no sinks, tables or counters. Then there is this whole process for getting fire wood and that has to be planned out because the wood, once cut, has to be dried out before it can be used. I am so thankful that we have a couple of ladies on staff who know how to cook like this. I do miss cooking and baking. Phase 2 of MCH is going to have an "American" style kitchen in it and I will be able to cook and bake again.
7. There is very little food variety here.
We basically eat the same things every day. Sometimes we throw in meat when we can afford to, but most of the time it is the same thing all the time. Cabbage, greens, tomatoes and potatoes are the main veggies here and there are only so many ways to prepare those. When we do find other veggies they are usually tiny and very expensive so when feeding 26+ it can get outrageous quickly. Breakfast is chai (hot tea with milk) with bread and jam. Lunch is rice and beans. Every night we eat potatoes, greens, cabbage and ugali (think dried grits) for dinner.
8. While English is an official language in Kenya (along with Swahili), there is still a huge language barrier for us.
Although English became an official language in Kenya recently, it still isn't spoken much here. The English that they learn is influenced by British English since Kenya used to be a British colony until 1963, and most are afraid to use it with someone who is fluent. I really wish we had spent more time learning Swahili before moving here. Since we've moved we've had about 4 different tutors who haven't worked out for one reason or another. Some of our kids have learned to speak English with a Kenyan accent, so they can communicate better than I can. Also a few of our children speak quite a bit of Swahili. They actually shock me sometimes when they are speaking to their friends and siblings. Brendan especially has become a pretty good translator.
9. Increased illness
Yikes! We are sick so often here. In America we almost never went to the doctor...maybe 3 visits a year out of our entire family. But in Kenya we have someone going to the doctor at least every two weeks. We have the malaria symptoms down now so that is a pretty eat fix, but recently we have battled cellulitis, pneumonia and stomach infections. While medical care can be cheap here, if you want to really know what's wrong you, you have to go into town and have some tests ran. Usually prices look like this: malaria test $1, full blood panel $7, x-ray $8, sonogram $15, doctor fee $5 and meds range from 20 cents up to $13. Yesterday we paid $18 for 6 different meds. Super cheap if you are in America, but when living in Kenya and living on a Kenyan budget it isn't so cheap. Unfortunately, so many people here die unnecessarily due to waiting too long to seek medical attention because of lack of money. We are slowly changing that for our community.
10. Most people here have never seen a light-skinned person and they think we are rich.
I can't begin to explain how cute it is when the little kids see you, get excited and start chanting "mzungu, mzungu, mzungu!". For them, it is like they are seeing a celebrity and kids are adorable so I can't help but smile. However, when adults start yelling "mzungu!" and asking for money it is eyeroll worthy for sure. Maybe it is because I'm from America and blessed to grow up around many different cultures, but it just isn't shocking to me when I see people with different skin tones. I try and remember that we may be the only light-skinned person they have ever seen, but I still find it rude when adults point, call me mzungu and ask me for money. Forget trying to explain to them that we are just poor missionaries. To them, the lightness of my skin means that I have money to pass out to everyone.
While I would classify Kenya as the worst place I've ever lived, I love it here the most. My heart is at peace here. I wouldn't change being here. Not for electricity, flushing toilets, a hot shower...not even for all the sweet iced tea and tacos I could consume. Kenya is my home and where God has me and therefore is literally the best place I have ever lived. I hope God never calls me to move from here, it would be a hard call to follow.
My Eugene is home! I never thought those words would come out of my mouth or be typed by my fingers! Seriously though, if you know me you know I love kids. I've always loved kids and always knew I wanted to be a Mom. But Eugene...we've known him for close to seven months now; his glue habit and behavior totally pushed me away. He also seemed to have an attitude of "give me, give me, give me", but all the street boys do, some just push harder, like Eugene did.
Eugene always had glue...always. Even we we are telling him "hapana glue" (no glue) there he was with it hanging out of his mouth. The boy always had it and never tried to hide it. His hand would be out begging for food, clothes, shoes and of course money while he was clearly getting high. Often times the boys would put their glue in their pocket or the front of their pants or shorts. Not Eugene, his was always on display, you never had to look for it.
Eugene was always more animated than the other boys. The amount of English he speaks is very small and he's loud. Once we were eating lunch with him and he yelled across the restaurant for the waiter to bring him maji (water). No tafadali (please), just "gape maji" (give me water) where everyone could hear. Talk about embarrassing for me. Thankfully, the workers knew Eugene and didn't think I was responsible for his bad manners. Another time when we were in town eating, he saw us, came in, ordered food and sat down. We didn't invite him, he just decided that he was going to eat with us and of course we were paying ;).
Jeff always found Eugene's behavior to be funny. I found it annoying. Jeff used to say "One day we are coming back for Eugene." to which I would reply "No, we aren't!" While of course Jeff would have the final say, I just really couldn't imagine Eugene ever seeing us as more than a free lunch. But over the last 6 months I think we grew on him because he started asking us to take him to "shule" (school).
So Saturday we were in Bungoma doing our weekly shopping trip for food and Eugene was on my mind. We had just 15 days earlier left him in tears in Bungoma when he was begging us to take him. I was wondering if we would see him. I was wondering if he would be mad that we didn't take him, would he understand? We passed one of our usual stores so we could go to the pharmacy and I didn't see Eugene. But as we were leaving the pharmacy and headed to a new place for lunch we pass him. He spots us and starts yelling "Jeff, Jeff, Jeff!" and running after us.
Eugene had 2 friends with him, and of course they wanted to eat too. So Jeff, Nickson, the 3 boys and myself all went into eat. In the middle of lunch I lean over to Jeff and say "I think today is the day". I told Jeff I knew we didn't have the funds for the bed yet, but that we couldn't just keep waiting. He would have a place to sleep and now was just as good a time as ever. Jeff messaged Ray to make sure he was onboard with today being Eugene's day and he gave the all clear.
Eugene's situation is complicated. He and his older brother (we plan to bring Emmanuel home soon) have been abandoned by their mother. In Kenya, often times when the mother gets remarried the children from previous relationships are discarded. If the stepfather does not agree to take the kids in, the mother leaves the kids behind and starts a new life without them. Such is the case with Eugene, Emmanuel and some of the other street boys we know.
Eugene has been home for 3 days and is doing great. He enjoyed his first day at school and often has a giant smile on his face. Those annoying habits I saw on the street, I'm not seeing at home. Well...he is still loud, but it such a joyous noise to hear him laughing, being a child and knowing he is home. God has been so good to us and these boys who have had to give up their glue. Asante sana (thank you very much) for supporting Mercy Children's Home so we can help kids like Eugene!
By Stephanie Bys
Each night, I lay in bed with a full heart. Outside of God, my amazing husband and our wonderful children I'm most thankful for where God has us right now. Truly with the ups and downs of Kenya, and there are definitely downs, I'm so blessed to be where I am.
Each night, I lay in bed hearing giggles in the 2 rooms that house kiddoes. Since we still don't have ceilings we can all hear each other quite well at all times. Sometimes the giggles are so great and loud you can't tell which room it is coming from...boys or girls. The boys are usually polluting (passing gas) as the kids say here in Kenya and the girls are just giggling over everything. I must admit, in America, when there were giggles after bedtime it was often met with a stern talking to because...shhhh, it is time for bed. But here in Kenya, I find that these giggles represent so much more than disobedience. The giggles represent togetherness, bonding, love, cohesiveness, joy and happiness. How can I even let the joyous noise from the other rooms irritate me? I don't, and for the most part after 10 minutes or so they settle down and go to sleep.
Each night, I lay in bed being amazed that we really are living our dream. About 6 years ago I told Jeff I wanted to have an orphanage and here we are in Kenya living in an orphanage. What?! What a huge God we serve! When I told Jeff that, it sounded great and I really did want to do it, but I really didn't think it would be possible. So many pieces would have to come together for that to happen which made it really seem impossible. But God is bigger and had better plans than the ones I was planning.
Even today while I lay in bed trying to rest and recover from malaria, the kids seem to be playing exceptionally loud. They are all busy playing hide and seek. I just can't help but smile through the ear piercing screams and the many giggles that are happening in our home right now.
Each night, I lay in bed in awe. In the last 14 months God has really shown me some things I needed to be shown. See, Jeff has also had a dream for years to open an orphanage, only his was in Africa. Before April of 2016, I really didn't want to come to Kenya. I really thought refusing to discuss a move for us at any point was the best thing. I really thought by refusing to move I was keeping Jeff level-headed. Instead, God showed me that I needed to go. I needed to go much sooner than "when all the kids were grown". God showed me that I was holding Jeff back, not keeping him level headed. God is still moving and working in His people. If you will be patient and listen you can learn so much and be more and more like Him.
On Thursday of last week while doing our main weekly shopping trip we ended up bringing one of the street boys home to live with us. Of course this wasn't planned, but this is Kenya and little that we plan actually happens, so no better time then right then 🙂. After doing some shopping for food items and walking out of one of our frequented supermarkets we heard "Jeff! Jeff! Jeff!", we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by 4 or 5 street boys. These boys are the same ones who manage to find us almost every time we are in Bungoma, but I will admit that we aren't hard to find because of our light skin color. They all started telling us they wanted to go to "shule", which is school in swahili, and they were hungry. Wayne, the one we ended up bringing home, was among the boys that was begging us for help. I was excited to see him because I hadn't seen him in a couple of weeks and the first time I met him, I just knew he was supposed to be here at Mercy Children's Home.
While standing outside the supermarket Jeff, Ray and myself are all looking at eachother and trying to quickly and quietly discuss bringing Wayne home. We are all in agreement so we get Nickson (mine and Jeff's driver and friend) to translate that he can come home with us, BUT no glue, he has to follow the rules, he has to go to school and if he leaves MCH he won't be allowed back. Wayne agreed and just like that he was ready to go.
So happy Thursday for us right? We were able (thanks to all those who support us) to pull another "parentless" child off the streets of Bungoma, bring him home, get him cleaned up, fed and registered for school. While this was a happy moment for us it also included a heartbreaking one.
While Wayne and his giant smile is trying to get on the motorbike and Ray is trying to get the bike out of the spot it is parked in, Eugene starts to get on as well. Nickson steps in and tries to explain to Eugene that he can't go today. Eugene just couldn't accept that and continued to try and get on over and over again. Jeff ended up having to hold a tearful little boy back so Ray could leave with Wayne.
Eugene, Eugene, we have spent a lot of time with him. He and Dan were close and he always finds us. I will be honest and say until last month I've said "nope not that one" about Eugene many, many times. Eugene's English is minimal, his behavior can be less than desirable, his glue habit seems to be severe and his situation is complicated. We have been told by Dan that Eugene has a home that he goes to every night, just no family that really cares, so he returns to the streets to beg every day. I just couldn't see Eugene working out here, but since we brought Dan home, I've really been able to see Eugene's heart. He always asks about Dan, asked me to make a video for Dan to see and even sent a green balloon home to him. It was then I was able to see past the glue and the annoying behaviors and just see a boy who needs someone on his side.
When will we go back for Eugene? Well Dan and Wayne are stable enough for us to bring home another street boy, but we are out of beds for boys. The boys dorm isn't finished yet, but Ray has graciously opened up his room to be the temporary boys dorm. Right now we have 5 boys sleeping in 4 beds in Ray's room and they are making it work. The temporary boys dorm could hold 2 more Mercy Beds, but we have an immediate need for 1 more before we can take in any more boys. The Mercy Bed (triple bunk bed) itself is costing us about $200 for materials and labor plus another $150 for the 3 mattresses. Once we have the funds to build another bed we will have the carpenter come back and get started on a bed for Eugene.
What a blessing it is to know that the stories of Dan, Wayne, Abigeal, Robai, Diana, Elica, Charity and Vivian are being changed. But at the same time it is heartbreaking to personally know many whose stories are not being changed but desperately need to be. We continue to pray and trust that God will complete the good work He has started here. Thank you to all of you who are a part of changing their story, I doubt you will ever fully know the incredible impact that you are having here. Your prayers are greatly appreciated and felt.
30 days! For the last 30 days Dan has lived at Mercy Children's Home. For the last 30 days he had some major life changes! He's...
•Slept in a bed every night.
•Had clean clothes to wear every day.
•Had shoes on his feet every day.
•Eaten 3 meals and a snack every day.
•Attended school 5 and a half days a week.
•Received tutoring 5 days a week.
•Brought many smiles to our faces.
•Attended church regularly.
•Participated in Bible study.
●Wednesday he tested 3rd in his class out of 34 students!
I can't tell you how happy my Momma heart is. Dan is an amazing young man. When he started school 4 weeks ago he wanted to be placed in 4th grade (he's 14 years old) because he had not yet completed that grade. We pushed him to go to 5th, because he tested high enough in 4th that we figured with some help 5th grade would be good for him. So 4 weeks into his 5th grade year, 5 months into the Kenyan school year and he is 3rd in his class! Thank you, thank you, thank you for your prayers and support for Dan! We are so excited for God to provide the funds to finish the boys dorm so we can go and get more boys that are in the same situation that Dan was just 30 days ago. Every time we go to town the street boys ask about Dan and ask us when they too can come and live here.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this; to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27
Yesterday was a total "why me?" day. Over the last few days it has been more and more in our face that we are literally living our dream. It is a crazy thing to realize that you had a desire and that God gave you the go-ahead and created a way to make it happen. It is also a huge responsibility that I don't take lightly. Several years ago I told Jeff that I wanted to have a group home for children, and today workers are diligently working to roof Mercy Children's home.But yesterday; yesterday started out like all of our days do. We got up, got ready and waited some. Most of the time in Kenya you can make plans, but the reality is that they will happen later than you planned. After morning chai we jumped on the boda boda and headed to the school in Sang'alo. Our plan was to bandage up Elijah's foot and take Chris to the Dr to get a treatment plan started. Chris is a student at the school in Sang'alo and he has some serious health issues going on. We had a precious donor send in $300 specifically for his treatment so we are tackling that and trying to get a long term treatment plan together.
When we arrived at the school the children's heads were being shaved and treated for ringworm. Ringworm is pretty common here and spreads from child to child quickly. It is mostly found on their heads, the easiest way to get rid of it is to shave the head and apply the ointment all over. So instead of heading straight into Bungoma we stayed in Sang'alo for a couple of hours, gave some hair cuts, loved on some babies, spoke to a grandmother about her beautiful granddaughter coming to stay with us and ate lunch. During lunch Pastor Calistus informed us that Robai had missed a couple of days of school and had passed out. He didn't want to tell us because he said nothing could be done, because she missed a dose or 2 of her HIV meds so this is normal.
So what's this "Why me?" about? Well after yesterday I was really doubting myself and honestly, God. While I know He is perfect and makes no mistakes I was feeling like maybe he did in sending me here. Who am I? Why me? In the grand scheme of things I'm nobody. I'm not qualified for this at all. I'm not a Dr., not a social worker, not a specialist of any kind...as a matter of fact I don't even consider myself book smart at all. But here I am living in Kenya with often a suffocating amount of responsibility. Often a burden so big that I just don't know how it will happen, but in my heart of hearts I just can't accept that it can't happen. I know I serve a great big God and I know that is why I can't accept that it (help/change) can't happen. Now let me give you a little snap shot of my day. This won't be a line by line of all the things that burdened me, but the ones that hurt the most.
1st "why me?" of the day...as hair cuts were being done in Sang'alo there was a little boy who was so dirty they were having a hard time cutting his hair off of his head. He had an open sore on the front of his leg that the Dr said was due to lack of hygiene. It was obvious that this child hadn't bathed in weeks. This was so sad to me, it actually made me mad a little bit...this poor little boy was filthy yet hadn't been helped by anyone.
2nd "why me?" ...As I sat in a plastic chair in the shade Pastor Calistus sat a Grandmother down right across from me asking if her granddaughter needs to come and live with us. While I couldn't understand the Swahili they were speaking I knew what was happening. Her eyes (I don't think I will forget them ever) but she said yes, that her sweet Epikai who is HIV+ needs to come and stay with us. Her situation is so dire that her Grandmother was able to make that decision on the spot.
3rd "why me?" ...being notified that Robai had passed out and apparently that is thought of as normal in her situation. In my heart of hearts I know she needed to be seen by a Dr. I'm also fairly sure she needed at least some IV fluids. Why is her situation such that if she misses a dose or two of meds she passes out? Does she need more meds? Is she on the right meds? She has constantly been on my mind and now more so. I need her home so we can dig deeper and get her healthy.
4th "why me?" of this long day...when the Dr. checked Elijah out he said he needed oral and topical antibiotics due to his foot infection and I had those for him, but he also needed to be seen by a dentist for issues with a tooth. Elijah's Mom is a widow with many children and hasn't been able to afford his medical needs. So we took him to the dentist while his Mom stayed behind and worked. Elijah had a tooth pulled yesterday without his Momma there. I'm glad that he is on the road to healing, but my heart breaks for his Mom and her situation.
5th "why me?" ...Chris; his situation is so bad. There really is no way to sugar coat it, the child is in bad condition. He has sickle cell and that hasn't been treated properly. Now he needs surgery, but right now he isn't even stable enough for surgery. His family has known since 2016 that he needs surgery, but they simply don't have the money. In Kenya the full bill has to be paid before you leave, they will not bill you later.
These events left me broken, with tears in my eyes and wondering "why me?". I'm just a Momma from Texas with big dreams that everyone can be saved and helped. But can they really? My heart says save them all and my head says that's just not possible.
I guess in the end on the hard days I need to remeber that I was chosen. God knows things about me that I do not. He sees strength that I'm not aware of. He knows that my heart is big enough and that I will obey Him. He did choose me and by doing so He has tremendously blessed me. I've never loved life more than I do right now.
As many of you know we have a sweet young girl named Robai coming to live with us who is HIV positive. Since I know very little about HIV I've been doing some research on the topic. My goal for Robai and any other child who stays with us is that they would do more than survive, that they would thrive.
For our HIV kiddoes we will be tweaking their nutrition some. It is my understanding that all the children here need more fruits and veggies, but especially the ones that are HIV positive. 2 weeks ago when we went and visited Robai and her school in Sang'alo she had several bumps on her arms, neck and face. When we asked if she was sick her pastor told us that the bumps are from the lack of fruits and vegetables in her diet. That will not be happening at Mercy Children's Home. At this point my nutrition game plan is to always have fruits and vegetables available for her at every meal and at least 2 snacks a day and one of those being an avocado. Once she moves in she will be attending school right across the street at Mercy Foundation Academy so she can walk home for lunch each day. I would love for you to share any links or good ideas that you have concerning healthy foods for compromised immune systems. I'm fully aware that this type of thing takes a team so please send me your ideas! Also I am open to researching just about anything. I'm pretty "crunchy" (naturally minded) so things that might sound weird to others often sound great to me!
I haven't found any vitamins in Kenya YET, but there has to be some here right? I do have access to coconut oil and know that it is a super healthy oil with good fats in it. I'm hoping to be able to add this to our "HIV diet plan". It is a little pricy here, but surely it can be found in bulk at a cheaper price. I'm planning to cook with it and see if she will just eat it with a spoon. I'm also thinking of using it as a lotion/moisturizer for the kids. Often times I see petroleum jelly being used for moisturizer here and I'm just not a fan that, but coconut oil will work as a moisturizer and is great for everyone's skin. If you know of or have any experience with any supplements that would be good for immune compromised kids can you please share those with me? Somehow, someway we need to boost their immune system, even if I have to have something shipped to us.
I'm fully aware that I can't change everything here, and I don't want to. But nutrition seems like a fairly easy thing that can make a huge difference in the children's lives. In Kenya the main foods are rice, flour, corn and beans. If we are able to add in a couple of fruits and a couple of veggies daily I will be happy with that. I know keeping fresh items on hand will be a little more difficult, but it seems like every other day someone is going into town so it shouldn't be that hard. There is a small market right at the end of our road so maybe I can tell them what I would like and they can start to have that on hand so we can purchase it as needed.
Please send any and all ideas and links to me! You can comment on the blog, email me at Mrsbys03@gmail.com or find me on FB and message me! Thank you so much for your love and support!!
Some have asked what our biggest need is, so I thought I would answer here. The simple answer is...support. Google defines support as to "bear all or part of the weight of; hold up." We need you to bear part of the weight that is on our shoulders, walk along side us even if 9,000 miles separate us.
First and foremost we need your support through prayers. We need to know that y'all care enough about our mission to call upon God for us. We need to know you are praying for the work that He has us here doing and that while we are here fighting some spiritual warfare we have people praying us through that. We need to know that y'all are praying for hearts to be prepared and softened. We need to know that y'all are praying for smooth transitions when moving a child from one home to the next. We need to know that prayers are going up for Mercy Children'sHome that is being built and so close to being completed. This home is a huge task, one that we don't take lightly and there are SO many details and decisions to be made and considered. This mission will never be accomplished by our own strength, we are depending on God and your prayers.
No man can do me a truer kindness in this world than to pray for me. - Charles Spurgeon
Another way we need support is to know that we haven't been forgotten. Being 9,000 miles away and 9 hours ahead of our friends and family can be hard. We miss you everyday, even if we didn't see you often when we lived in Texas. We are now very aware of just how little (if ever again) we will see y'all. Being 9 hours ahead makes phone calls tricky sometimes, especially if work or school is involed, but we can and will make it work if you would like to talk to us. I can't explain what a quick Facebook or email message means to us, but it for sure lets us know that you haven't forgotten us. I'm not talking about a pat on our back, we aren't here for that, but just something quick letting us know you are thinking about and or praying for us.
Aside from prayer, encouragement is the biggest way you can support us. I know we post a lot about the fun we have and the joy that the children bring, but some days are hard. Some days you just want to see and hug your loved ones. Some days you just really want sweet iced tea, electrical power (full time) and some air-conditioning. Some days are really hard here and you feel like a failure and wonder why God wanted to send you here. Some days you question God..."Are you sure You wanted me to go?" Living so far away from your support system can be extremely hard. So when we make posts asking for extra prayers, talking about missing family or feeling like we aren't getting enough done we need encouragement. We need scripture "shoved in our face" if you will, as a reminder. Please don't encourage us to come "home", we are home because we know that this is where God wants us. However we are human and fall short. Sometimes we just need a "kick in the pants" to get back on track! With Tammara and Ray here now I feel like often we can be that voice of reason for each other, but I try hard to be open and show both sides of this journey, because it isn't all smiles and joy.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Our family is very grateful for your prayers and support! Thank you for coming along side us and helping us do what God has called us to do. 3 months in Kenya and I truly can't imagine living anywhere else. The children here really do bring so much joy, but often their situations bring heartache. My prayer is that we can help them all, even if it takes longer than my lifetime.
Happy 3 months of living in Kenya to us. God is doing great things in our lives here, constantly drawing us closer to Him and teaching us many valuable lessons. We for sure aren't in America anymore. But Jesus is near to us, probably closer here than when we were there. As we've been adjusting and trying to merge with our culture I've come across some things that I wish every Kenyan I met knew so I thought I would share those things here.First and foremost, our purpose here is to serve God through caring for the orphans and widows, supporting local indigenous pastors and anything else He (God) calls us to do. Jeff and I have had a heart for orphans for a long time. I've kind of always known I would adopt even before I fully understood what adoption was. Of course once we were able to adopt it really opened our eyes to the huge need out there, therefore deepening our passion for orphans. I have always been drawn to babies and kids so my passion for orphans doesn't surprise me at all, but I am surprised that God has us here in Kenya living this life and serving Him in this way.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18
Swahili isn't easy for this Momma. I'm trying, I promise. And one day I might actually be able to communicate more than just a basic greeting, but not yet. I wish so badly that I could just freely communicate with you in your language, but Swahili is so hard for me. Please be patient with me, I love living here and want to be considered "one of you" one day. I want to have you over to my home, share chai with you and learn all about you and your life and share my life and my family with you. Relationships are important to me. I don't just want to be the muzungu that lives in Kaya, I want to be your friend.
In order to move here we sold everything, including our home in America, besides a few personal items and books. Upon selling most of our belongings we donated the majority of our money to AFM to help get the orphanage built. We fully believe that God wants Mercy Children's Home built so we obeyed Him, sold it all and moved. We don't have thousands of shillings sitting in the bank. We aren't rich and we aren't fancy people, we never have been. To you, I know you see us and assume we have the money to meet your needs, but the truth is we don't. We are here to help support orphans, widows and pastors. I wish we could pay all of the school fees for your kids, as we know a proper education is important. I wish we could put shoes on every set of feet. Jiggers are bad here and cause a lot of pain and many missed school days. I wish we could make sure not one person goes hungry. Sadly we just can't meet these needs for everyone. We want to help you and we have helped some of you. We care about each and every one of you. But if we helped with every need we wanted to, then Mercy Children's Home just wouldn't be possible. We hate telling you hapana (no), we hate seeing needs that go unmet. Truthfully we hate not being able to fix things and meet needs for everyone here. We must focus first on the main reason we are here, to build and open Mercy Children's Home. Once we get the children's home built and operating I'm positive that we will start working on other ways to meet other needs here. One example being that we will be building 8 to 10 (or more) small apartments on the property to house widows in need. Another example is trying to figure out a way to get enough funds for a nearby school to be able to feed the kids lunch, because right now they can't do that.
You are NEVER just a photo opportunity. If it ever feels that way I'm sorry. When I first arrived in Kenya I took pictures often, but then I started feeling bad about it. See I never want you to feel like I'm here exploiting you. That's not my heart, not my heart at all. But I do need to take pictures so I can share them with our support system. I need to share them so I can help bring awareness to the needs that we have here. So that our friends can see the beautiful faces of those who they are praying for. I love you all and truly want what is best for you. My only motive is to bring attention to the needs here so that more and more people can be helped.
Lastly...eat with us...PLEASE (Godfrey, Pamella, Matrine, Evaline and Nickson, I'm looking at y'all)! I'm sure it is a cultural thing that we are served a meal and then left alone to eat, but we want to eat WITH you. We want to get to know you and for you to know us. We want to learn from you and about you. We aren't here for just a little while, Kenya is now our home too. We aren't going back to the United States to live, so please stop treating us as visitors and treat us just like you would anyone else. We aren't special, not even a little, we are just one family that God chose to send here. When you come to our home for a meal we will all sit down, pray together and then eat. We will sit down and learn about and from each other. I have SO much to learn about Kenya and the way things are done here.
This is a totally selfish post, but I feel like I need to reach out and ask for more specific prayers.Earlier this week I posted a photo on my Facebook of a very small pencil and yellow crayon in a 4 year old's hand. This sweet little girl attends Mercy Foundation Academy across the street from Mercy Children's Home. On that day we were just hanging out in the office at the school and she had come in to see us. She pulled out her book to show us how she could write and color. I saw her writing on the paper, but didn't see her pencil, upon further investigation I saw just how tiny her pencil was. Then she showed us how she could color...she sat her dot of a crayon on the paper and pushed it back and forth with her finger. In a very unexpected way this hit me hard. Just the day before I had seen pencils for sale for 5 cents, but yet her family couldn't afford to get her a new one. So I'm in this small room with about 15 other people and I just want to cry for her, for her situation, for her Momma who knows her daughter needs a new pencil, but can't afford to replace it. I want to cry because honestly before that moment I just assumed all the kids had what they needed for school. I can't even tell you how many pencils I have had my own kids throw away because they were "too short" and they were much longer than hers.
A few days after this we met and talked to a group of street boys. During the time we were talking to them I could see the filth on their clothes, the sadness in their eyes, their shoeless feet, the glue that they are constantly inhaling to avoid feeling hunger pains and their extreme need for a loving home. If you haven't seen my post on Facebook about this you might be thinking these are all older teen boys, but you are wrong, these boys range from 7 to 13...let that sink in for a minute. 7, 8, 9 and 10 year olds living on the streets of Bungoma not knowing where their next meal will come from, not having clean clothes, not having shoes to protect their feet from the hot ground and not having a place to shower and wash the dirt off of their young bodies. Again this situation leaves me heartbroken, as a Momma leaving these boys on the street is so incredibly hard. They need a home.
In a previous post we told you about Robai, a young girl who we briefly met at the youth conference in Sang'alo shortly after we moved to Kenya. Something about her just spoke to my Momma heart while we were there. I'm not sure exactly what it was, but I had snapped a few pictures of her and returned to look at them frequently. About a month later we learned from Calistus, the pastor at Sang'alo church, that she needed a home. He sent over a picture of her and I immediately said "I know her!". This week were able to return to Sang'alo, while we were there we visited the school there and were able to meet and talk with Robai and her Grandmother. Both her mother and father have passed away from AIDS, she is HIV positive, she lives with her Grandmother, Victoria, who is widowed and Victoria can't actually afford to provide proper food for Robai. While we were visiting Robai we noticed that she had some small bumps on her arms and face. When we inquired about theses bumps we were told that because of her condition, when Robai doesn't eat fruits and vegetables every day she gets these all over her body. That absolutely broke my heart. I can't imagine being her Grandmother and knowing that Robai NEEDS fruits and veggies, but not being able to provide that for her. As we were talking to Victoria she said "if we can take this girl it would be a big blessing"...my eyes welled up with tears because that is A LOT of love to have to allow her to go and live at the children's home just so she can have her basic needs met. Robai was able to go and eat lunch with us and we able to buy her a bag of fruits and vegetables to get her through for a few days. Again I had to walk away and leave another child in a bad situation. I am so thankful that she has a house to sleep in and a loving Grandmother to love and care for her, but that just isnt enough for Robai. Sweet Robai needs to be at Mercy Children's home now, but it isn't ready for her.
So how is this post selfish? I need prayers that my heart can keep taking hit after hit and still hold up. It is hard knowing that we will have a place to take in kids, but not yet because we still need a good bit of money to finish building Mercy Children's Home. It is so incredibly hard knowing that small children are sleeping on the streets, small children literally beg for scraps of food and gladly will take your leftovers. It is hard knowing that children in school are writing with pencils so small that you can't even see it once they wrap their tiny hand around it to write. Please pray that I will be patient. Deep down I know God has this and I know God didn't bring us to Bungoma to build two-thirds of an orphanage. I know that in time all the kids at Mercy Foundation Academy will have the proper supplies needed and uniforms that aren't riddled with holes and tears. Please pray for my attitude. I try to be happy and upbeat, but deep down I'm struggling with the home not being done yet. I need this home done so we can start helping these kids instead of just knowing about them. Honestly I could care less about having a home for us, this is about helping kids who need to be in a better situation. What good is it to know about all these needs without action to help fix the needs? Lastly, please pray that I will "be still and know". I need to be still and know that God has us right here with an unfinished children's home for a reason.
Since we aren't fully funded for Mercy Children's Home and we are close to being able to take in orphans, it got me to thinking. I was trying to come up with a way to help others see that a little bit of American money goes farther in Kenya than it does in America. I think when some people hear that we need support to run an orphanage all they see are $ signs. So I did some math and if my calculations are correct Jeff and I have a total of 973 different friends on Facebook. If each person on our Facebook would sign up to donate $10 a month to support the orphans and widows in Kenya that would be $9730 a month! So much could be done in our community among the poorest of the poor with that kind of money! Do you know that $10 a month can and will make a difference? Do you know how many orphans and widows would be helped with that amount of money? Wow! Jeff and I have this dream that what we are calling a children's home will actually be much more than that. We hope that this home will house widows. We actually already have plans to build several rooms, apartments if you will, around the outside of the house specifically for widows. We also see this home being a place of teaching and training for pastor's and church leaders in the area. We are hoping it will become a place for others to come and see the work that God is doing here in Kenya. Come and see these beautiful smiles and take chai with them. Come and see that their lives are being changed with your help. We also plan for it to become a base of operations from which we can go out from to reach many unreached people groups in Africa.
Another thing we would like to do is start a weekly meeting with the "street boys" that we often see in town. For security reasons this won't happen at the orphanage, but we would like to start a weekly Bible study with them. At this weekly meeting Jeff, Ray and one of the local pastors would take them food, teach them a little about the Bible and figure out ways to help them get off of the streets. Perhaps many of them can come to live with us. While it won't take much money to make this happen, it still requires some money and since we aren't fully funded we can't commit to this yet.
So you might be thinking $10? What can my $10 a month do? Well let me show you a few different things that your 10 American dollars can provide to orphans and widows in Kenya. $10 will get you any of the following here:
60 giant avocados or 100 smaller ones 7-10 heads of cabbage 3 pairs of shoes 7 lbs of beef from the butcher 5 Watermelons 100 Oranges 7 Pineapples 300 Bananas 200 tomatoes 10kg beans 12kg rice 40kg Ugali 12 liters milk 200 onions 10 loaves of bread 3 jars of peanut butter
My question to you is can you find $10 a month in your budget to change their story? Will you help these children that have lost one or in many cases both parents? Will you help the lady who has 4 or more children and is facing life without her husband and his income because of his death? $10 by American standards isn't much to most, but it can have a huge impact here.
If you are currently donating monthly (many above $10) or have donated with one time or multiple gifts, thank you! I can't say that enough. You have no idea what it means to our family to have friends and family partner with us to help with this mission God has given us. You are helping change their story. Robai will no longer have to worry where her next meal will come from. Her grandmother will no longer lose sleep having to worry if Robai will have her school fees paid for.
Did you know that 95% of your donations are going straight to helping orphans and widows? Jeff and I don't receive a salary from AFM to do this (only money sent for our living expenses) and AFM has an all volunteer staff and board. The 5% that "goes missing" from you donation is to cover book keeping and the fees to send money monthly.
Here is my request, if you can find or create just $10 in your budget go to the link below right now and set up your monthly partnership. Please do it right now while this is fresh on your mind and heart. I know we are all busy people, I forget things all the time. AFM has made the donation/partnership process quick and easy for you. Thank you and God bless you!
We thank God! Land has been secured and construction has begun on AFM Mercy Children's Home. After 4 days of construction, the site has been secured with a barbed-wire fence, a storage shed has been constructed for housing building supplies, a kitchen area has been built to cook for the workers, a trench has been dug around the building site for a security wall for the home, and construction of the wall has begun. So much done in just 4 days! Today, 48 men were helping build! A real blessing for so many families represented by those men. Many have nothing right now due to the dry season and so little work available.
God willing, we will be able to move into the new home in about 3 weeks! Not everything will be complete by then. However, the living quarters should be far enough along at that point for us to move in. Just in time for the arrival of our dear friends the Moreno's! They too have sold everything and are partnering with us to build and run the orphanage.
Moving into the orphan home in 3 weeks means we should be ready to start moving orphans into the home in about 5 weeks. That being the case, we have spent much time in prayer asking God for wisdom on how to select which orphans to take in. While the need is very great here and our goal for this year is to be able to care for 80-100 orphans, we feel it is best to start with about 10. We have also met with the pastors of the JFM churches here in Bungoma county. These are the churches that AFM partners with here in Bungoma, Kenya and have been so instrumental in helping us get to this point. These pastors, led by Bishop Kennedy Simiyu, are helping us gather information on orphans in their churches and communities they serve in order to help us prioritize the needs. This part is very tough. It is one thing to know that there are kids in the world who are struggling just to survive. It is another thing to know so many of them personally and know that you can only care for some of them.
One of the children that will be coming to live with us is Robai. She is 8 years-old and is HIV positive. Both of her parents died from AIDS. She is currently living with her grandmother, Victoria, an elderly widow that recently broke her leg and her hand. Both she and Robai currently live in extreme poverty. Robai also has a brother named Boniface who ran away from Victoria's home. She believes he is living on the streets of Eldoret. We will attempt to locate him soon. These are just some of the stories that we intend to change.
Steph happened to take this video of Robai at an outdoor preaching and worship event in Sang'alo before we knew she would be coming to live with us. She is dancing in the white, yellow, and brown dress.
We are so very thankful for those God has led to partner with us in prayer and support. God is doing the work, we all simply obey. AFM president David Shelton, the AFM staff, the Moreno's, Juliana Tovar, JFM Bishop Kennedy, JFM pastors Godfrey, Leonard, Tobias, Calistus, Kennedy, Edwin, Evans, and Nelson, the workers building the orphanage, and so many others who are supporting this mission. We all have our part to play in this. Individually, I don't think any of us could hope to accomplish much. But together, we can accomplish great things in the Lord!
Currently, we are about $900/month short on our monthly operating budget needs. Please prayerfully consider whether you would like to help us in this mission financially. We are willing to take in as many orphans as God will allow. Perhaps you can help us change their stories. If you have previously pledged to help, but have not yet set up your monthly donation, now is the time. We are 5 weeks away from taking in orphans! Please click here for more info and to donate.
I know that we post lots of needs, but we are in a very different place now, a place we believe that God has put us in. The needs are GREAT here and often heartbreaking. We post about all the different needs not to overwhelm, but because we know that God calls different people to serve and give in different ways. But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 1 Corinthians 12:18-20
Several days ago I found out I had a jigger (click here to learn more about jiggers) in my foot. The pain of that was unreal and I'm no whimp to pain (I've had two non-medicated births). I woke up in the middle of the night with pain radiating out of the toe that had the nasty little creature living in it. The next morning the pain was worse and my friends decided to take a "look". I'm assuming that because they live here they knew immediately what was happening with my toe. Before I knew it they had opened up my toe and were squeezing it SO hard. The next day they repeated the same process, both days the pain was terrible. Since then we found that Aspen had one in her finger from digging in the dirt, thankfully is was a female and not painful, but it had laid eggs inside her finger. YUCK! I had another one manage to get in my big toe (caught it early so no pain) and 2 of the pastor's daughters have had them in their foot. So as you can imagine, now more than ever, I know the importance of all of these kids having shoes and me wearing mine all the time when outside ;)
What kind of shoes do we need? We need shoes that are in good condition. They don't have to be new, they don't have to be a certain style, they don't have to be a brand name, they don't have to be a certain size, even adult shoes are great! The older kids here have bigger feet, so adult shoes will be put to good use. We are asking for no flip flops because they just don't hold up. I can't tell you how many single flip flops I've seen on the side of the road because they have broken and no longer work. Most Goodwill stores have kids shoes for $2.99 a pair no matter the style and usually all the kids shoes are together making it a quick shopping trip. Adult shoes there usually run $7.99 each, but adult sandals are usually $2 or $3, so affordable for most people.
There are many different ways to meet the shoe needs here.
1. Collect them! Get your people involved and gather many pairs of shoes for these children. Maybe you have a small group at church, coworkers, workout buddies, a homeschool group or neighborhood friends help you collect them.
2. Drop off shoes for these shoeless feet at one of our drop off locations. One is in Rowlett, TX and one is in Fort Worth, TX. We can add more drop-off locations if needed. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Facebook to arrange drop-off.
3. Donate money and we will purchase them here. We have no problem purchasing shoes here. We can get new and used shoes here for around $3-$6 a pair. About-Face Missions is set up for auto drafts so maybe you want to sign up for $10 a month and provide 24 pairs of shoes over the course of a year. ;) We are a 501c3 so donations are tax deductible. Click here to go to AFM's donation page
4. Share this blog and our Facebook posts with your friends and family. God can use anyone to help meet this need.
There are at least 3 trips coming to Bungoma, Kenya in 2017 starting in February. The people coming are willing to bring shoes to these shoeless feet. Also, this will be a never ending need here. Please don't think that we can collect too many shoes! I hope one day to have an organization like Sole Hope involved in this area, but that isn't the case right now so we are relying on y'all. Help us spread the word and shoe MANY shoeless feet.
God taught me a lot in 2016. We moved from the city out to the country to live on a farm. The country had been my heart's desire for years and it finally happened. Living in the country, I felt the most peace I had ever experienced in my life (until I saw a snake). That was my happy place...within the first month there I couldn't imagine ever living anywhere else. I could only see staying there, after all it was my happy place and I was really in need of the peace that place brought me. Our children truly loved it. They loved the animals, freedom and slower pace it brought to our family.I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33 ESV
I also did a lot of growing personally during that time. If you don't know my background, I came from an abusive home. Many times as a child I wasn't allowed to have my own feelings. I was too often told how to feel, told when to smile, and always told to get over "it". "It" was usually some form of physical pain accompanied by verbal assault. Not really something you can just get over in a matter of seconds. My whole life, in one way or another, I had been hearing "get over it" without having the proper tools on how to get over it. Something about preparing to live in the country and actually living in the country on a farm was freeing. I feel like God used that time to teach me that I had a voice. He taught me that I had choices and that I could in fact make those choices without worrying about what others would think. In the end what mattered was what God thought. That had never really occurred to me before. Most of my adult life my choices have been thoroughly questioned by others. Maybe well meaning others, but generally I walked away feeling like I was stupid for whatever they were questioning me about. When you are 21 and get married to a man seven years older than you with 3 children then go on to have 6 children and adopt a teenager, you get ALL the questions, judgment and ridicule. So before moving to the farm it never really occurred to me that I only needed to consult my husband and my God. Really it was a weight off my shoulders. I needed not to worry about what others thought about me or the road that God was leading me down.
But the biggest and most important thing God taught me in 2016 was that I wasn't doing as well as I thought I was. I had this certain area in my life that I really struggled with for a while. By "struggled" I mean at one point I flat out refused to even consider doing what the Bible called me to do. Since I've gotten older and had a best friend guide me in this area I had grown a ton in the last few years. I bet if you had asked Jeff he would have even said I was doing a good job in this area. If you had asked me if I had that area down I would have said "yes". But God showed me different and even then I argued with Him. For those of you that know me you know I can be pretty hard-headed, so the fact that I argued is probably no surprise to you. In April of 2016 when Jeff was on his mission trip to Kenya God and I had a little conversation. It went something like this.
Me-I really need to sleep can you please make me sleep?
Him-You need to let go and submit.
Me-...what? I am submissive.
Him-You need to stop holding him (Jeff) back.
Me-...WHAT? He's in Kenya right now, I'm not holding him back, I just keep him level-headed.
Him-You need to let go and follow him.
Me-But I don't want to move to Kenya.
Him-You need to stop holding him back and follow him.
I just wanted to sleep! My husband was 9,000 miles away, the dogs were barking, I was hearing noises, it was 4 am and I was starting to worry/freakout/panic. Instead of sleeping I was learning...learning that an area I thought I had "mastered" I was still weak in. Though I had grown leaps and bounds in that area I still needed more growth. So for the next several minutes I cried. I cried because I knew that meant I had to say goodbye to my happy place, friends and family. In that moment I knew we would be moving to Kenya. For me I feel like that is every area of my life...if I think I have it mastered then I'm just missing something. God taught me to always be looking to grow and learn more.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
Now that we have actually moved to Kenya, I'm going to tell you what the kids think. It has been a huge change (as we were already expecting it would be) and we are still adjusting to the changes of culture, people, food, and all that sort of stuff. But, we are having a great time here and everyone is really nice. Some of us might say a little too nice, they treat us like royalty and it took a little while for us to get them to let us help with anything.
One of my favorite things here are the boda boda (dirt bike taxis) rides. The first time we rode on one I was pretty nervous. I just remembered all the times I had been told motorcycles were dangerous, even though boda bodas are much safer because they are slower and there isn't as much traffic except in the city. So I wasn't very excited. B and I were on the same boda boda, him in the middle between me and the driver. I told him that I was not about to be pressed up against someone I didn't know. Thankfully that has only happened once. When the boda boda started moving, I was holding onto Brendan so tightly I don't know how he wasn't complaining. Then I realized it wasn't so bad really. The only times I was nervous was when we were over bridges and when we rode through Bungoma, but I was watching the road the whole time to make sure the driver didn't hit anything! Near the end of the ride, B and I were showing off by sticking our hands out acting like we were airplanes and giving Karson high-fives. Mom said we were being foolish so we had to stop doing that.
Speaking of Mom, her first boda boda ride was not so pleasant. She didn't want to go on one in the first place. She had Reed and Ava-Joy riding in front of her and they all almost got hit by a herd of cows. It has become a family joke now. Sometimes we are on boda bodas now and we see a cow on the road we yell at Mom saying, "They're out to get you!"
Karson said his favorite thing about Kenya is probably the animals. So far the only 'exotic animals' we have seen are zebras and gazelles. We saw them on our way from Nairobi to Pastor Kennedy's house. Most of the animals we see here are cows, goats, pigs, and chickens.
The other day, we visited a lady's house where she was raising rabbits. She had little baby bunnies that we held and fell in love with. When we asked her how much they were, she said 100 to 150 shillings. That is $1.00 to $1.50 each! We are planning on buying 5 or 6 of them. Daddy was teasing Mom, who loves bunnies, that he is going to name them Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, Dinner, and Dessert.
Brendan loves to play soccer with the kids. The kids here really get into "football". B will play with them every single day. He will come in for dinner covered in a layer of dirt from playing. The whole family will play sometimes. It's really fun watching Karson play goalie. It is pretty funny seeing him out there in his big boots saying, in a Kenyan accent, "No goal. Hapana goal." (Hapana means 'no' in Swahili.)
Ava-Joy's favorite thing is playing with the girls. Mom and Dad got a hula-hoop from a store here called Nakumatt (which is pretty much a small Walmart) and the kids here love it. Joy will have the girls wait in a line and they will all show off their hula-hooping skills.
Violet loved seeing the baby goats. When we were in Kaya visiting Mercy School the other day, Mom had mentioned seeing baby goats across the street. We decided to go see them. I thought it was funny that the family didn't mind seeing strangers walking across their yard. The baby goats were very tiny and so cute! We each took turns holding the two babies and kept asking Daddy if he could buy us some. He assured us we can get some after AFM Mercy Children's Home is built!
Aspen recently made a new friend named Pastor Godfrey. Ever since we moved here, Pastor Kennedy has tried to get Aspen to like him by greeting her with hugs and "My friend, my friend.", but she has not been impressed. Then we visited Pastor Godfrey's house and she immediately liked him. He held her once while speaking in front of his congregation and she will greet him before she greets Daddy. It is pretty cute.
Reed agrees with me that the boda boda rides are really fun. He absolutely loves it! He will be riding between me and Ava-Joy and point out all of the cows saying, "Cow! They say moo." then he will fall asleep. It is sometimes difficult to keep him from falling off because he keeps leaning to look around.
As I said before, we are still adjusting but it is pretty easy to love living here! I don't think any of us regret leaving America, even if we miss our friends and family we left behind. From our family to yours, Christmas Njema! (Happy Christmas)